Monday, 16 April 2012

Cherish Your Home’s True Style

Property expert Laura Henderson explains how staying true to your property’s vintage roots can add financial as well as aesthetic value

All properties come with a timeline, distinctive characteristics specific to their era. Over the years, successive homeowners like to put their stamp on a place by adding ‘fresh’ features, but too many of us fall into the trap of papering over the old to make way for the new and in doing so, we chip away at a property’s intrinsic value.

We might not categorise houses from the 50s, ‘swinging’ 60s or even 70s as period properties, but they’re increasingly appreciated for their retro charms, as seen in rising demand and resale values. It’s for those reasons that property-experts recommend staying true to a home’s original design. It’s not about waiting for that period to come back into fashion, but rather to maximise a property’s potential by giving it the historical context it deserves.

Laura Henderson

Restoration Rules 

Pace yourself - get to know your home before making any major restoration decisions. You will be amazed how many times you change your mind as you familiarise yourself with your home and its design quirks through the seasons.

Be realistic - don’t tackle the whole house at once. Working in stages makes the project more manageable and gives you the opportunity to mug up on new skills as you go along. Hiring tradesman on individual projects also gives you a chance to try them out before you commit to a larger outlay.

Get out and about - research the vernacular traditions of your area. Find out as much as you can about local building materials, styles, and building types. Get in touch with your local building preservation trusts and the Vernacular Architecture Group.

Do your homework - remember your legal obligations if your property is listed or in a conservation area. To renovate or build onto a listed building you will need both planning permission and listed building consent. Involving an architect at an early stage will legitimise your approach and likely fast-track the application process. Log onto the Royal Institute of British Architects website and click on ‘Find an architect’. You can also seek advice from an organisation specialising in maintaining a heritage register of architects such as Project Book, a useful resource guide for restoration projects.

Keep it real – sourcing reclaimed materials is time consuming but can make all the difference to the finished look. Reclamation and salvage yards are great hunting grounds for fixtures and fittings as are auctions rooms. You can also ask your builder to keep a look out for specific items or do a trawl of your local antique/bric-a-brac shops.

Choose your builder wisely - if you are using a main contractor, always go for a firm with an established reputation for historic building work. Find out who will be managing the project and taking responsibility for quality control. Request references and follow them up – visit previous projects and speak to past clients. Ask about the individual tradesmen – have they been with the company for long, are they fully qualified?

Keep a handle on finances - if you are working to a fixed price contract, make sure any changes to the original design are written down. Get them priced up before work starts, otherwise you risk being overcharged for bolt-on ‘extras’. Ask your builder for a monthly invoice for work completed up to that date. Check individual costs/items in detail. Don’t pay for goods that are not on site or for work that hasn’t been fully completed.

And finally - be prepared to compromise. Period property wasn’t designed for high octane modern living. Space and light enhance any living environment, but you may have to compromise if you want to savour the period splendours of a traditional home.

Laura’s latest book - Tricks and Mortar: The Little Book of Property Wisdom (Book Guild Publishing, £12.99) is out now.

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